February 7, 2014, Washington, DC – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have announced over $38,000 in grants to nine National Wildlife Refuge Friends (Friends) organizations to support them in being effective co-stewards of important natural resources within the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Administered through NFWF, the grants were awarded through the National Wildlife Refuge Friends Grant Program, which is a collaborative effort between NFWF, the USFWS, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and the National Audubon Society. The Friends Grant Program provides competitive seed grants to assist Friends organizations in developing projects, expanding and increasing their capacity and skills, meeting local refuge challenges, gaining and building community recognition and support, and building long-term relationships.
Friends organizations are crucial to the collective mission of the Refuge System. They undertake approximately 20 percent of all work on National Wildlife Refuges, which is equivalent to 648 full-time employees. Since 1998, the National Wildlife Refuge Friends Grant Program has provided over 370 awards totaling more than $1.6 million in federal funds to support Friends organizations throughout the entire Refuge System.
In the past, grants were awarded to provide funding within three categories: start-up, capacity building, and project-specific. However, during the last fall grant cycle, a fourth category was added, a special initiative for peer-to-peer coaching. This new initiative encourages Friends groups to get together, along with USFWS staff, to exchange ideas, attain new information and skills, and to meet other Friends groups and USFWS staff in the region.
“The value of getting Friends together for the purpose of sharing best practices, challenges and success stories has done more to inspire and energize our Friends partnerships than any other single Friends program,” said Joanna Webb, the National Friends and Partnership Coordinator for the National Wildlife Refuge System. “When Friends get together for this purpose, they realize they are involved in and connected to something much bigger than just their local site and issues...they are part of huge network of over 200 Friends organizations across the entire Refuge System all doing similar work and experiencing the same challenges.”
The Fall 2013 grantees include:
Friends of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey will host a two-day meeting for seven Friends groups/Refuges. The meeting will focus on exchanging ideas, sharing expertise, networking, capacity building, and educational instruction in order to connect and learn from other Refuges.
Friends of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin will replace the existing Visitor Center landscaping with at least 60 different species of native plants. Project will provide a resource for education and demonstration, while beautifying areas of interest for visitors.
Friends of Maine Seabird Islands in Maine will improve the Visitor Center by installing two new computers for visitor education and a series of photographs, which will depict different features of the Refuge. The project will help the building better function as a visitor center to attract more visitors and educate them on the Refuge's coastal ecosystems.
Friends of Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Inc. in New York will create opportunities for bird watching and identification at the Visitor Center. The project will foster an awareness and appreciation for birds as well as build community relations by introducing a diverse urban constituency to the wildlife of Long Island.
Rappahannock Wildlife Refuge Friends Group in Virginia will use "GoPro" and wildlife cameras to capture events, activities, and wildlife on the Refuge to then be shared on Facebook and the website. The project will increase community awareness of the Friends Group as well as enhance environmental education throughout the community.
Friends of the Great Falls Discovery Center, Inc. in Massachusetts will create a Friends brochure with a tear off membership form as well as a traveling exhibit box to distribute and share throughout the community. The project will increase the Friends’ membership within and beyond its present area, thereby increasing the pool of volunteers available to help with Refuge programs.
Friends of the Great Plains Nature Center, Inc. in Kansas will develop a Media Relations and Special Event Management Plan to increase visitation to the Great Plains Nature Center. The project will increase the urban audience's awareness of the Refuge System's mission as well as conservation and education.
Friends of the Wildlife Corridor in Texas will develop a new and distinct website for Friends of the Wildlife Corridor. An effective website will allow for sharing information with the community, for soliciting and accepting support, and for sharing information among its Directors.
Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico will conduct strategic planning for the Friends' Board and key members to train participants how to continue the planning process. Project outcome will be a Strategic Plan with goals, objectives and action steps in order to fulfill the Friends' mission of supporting the Refuge, fostering a conservation ethic, education and outreach, and assisting the Service in developing the new Refuge site.
About National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) sustains, restores and enhances the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.1 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.